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6 Types of Cough: Explanation and Symptoms

What types of cough are there? What do they mean? Let’s find out.

Wheezing Cough

A wheezing cough is typically set off by asthma, allergies, viral infection, and in some cases, more severe medical complications. 

Wheezing is often described as a high-pitched sound with course whistling when breathing. The narrowed airways (due to inflammation) make musical or squeaky noises. Imagine the wind blowing through a tunnel or a squeaky toy sounds. The pitch can depend on which part of the lungs are affected. Also, the wheezing can be heard without a stethoscope, but sometimes medical equipment is required. 

A wheezing cough can affect all ages, but it can be especially worrying when it occurs in infants. It’s, therefore, essential to diagnose the underlying problem and treat the symptoms. 

Some common causes of a wheezing cough in adults include:

  • Viral or bacterial infections 
  • Asthma 
  • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
  • GERD – gastroesophageal reflux disease 
  • Allergies 
  • Heart disease 

Some common causes of a wheezing cough in infants include:

  • Respiratory syncytial virus infection (RSV)
  • Bronchiolitis
  • Common cold or croup
  • Whooping cough
  • Allergies
  • Asthma
  • Choking 

To find out more about wheezing cough symptoms & remedies, click here

Smoker’s Cough

It’s no surprise that smokers cough more than non-smokers. And the longer you smoke, the more likely you are to develop a persisted, raspy cough. 

Tiny hair-like cells called cilia line the airways and catch any toxins we inhale. Next, these cells push the harmful substances away from the lungs towards the mouth.

But the cilia don’t function correctly, and you have to work harder to filter toxins if you smoke because the chemicals in cigarettes slow them down. So, they can’t remove harmful substances, which then settle in the lungs, causing inflammation. Consequently, it triggers coughing as the body tries to clear the lungs.

Smoker’s cough symptoms are case-by-case, and how it affects an individual may vary. But in general, the main symptoms are a nagging cough that tends to be worse in the morning and improves during the day. 

Symptoms progress the longer one smokes. During the early stages, the cough is mostly dry, but it may produce sputum later on. Additionally, the phlegm may be colorless, speckled with blood, yellow-green, or brown.

While these aren’t the only symptoms, they are the most common. Other symptoms include:

  • Wheezing or a crackling sound when breathing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Sore throat 

Read more about smoker’s cough: symptoms and causes here.

Upper Airway Cough Syndrome

A nagging cough isn’t always a sign of a severe underlying condition. It could be upper airway cough syndrome, one of the most common causes of chronic cough in adults.

In the broadest terms, upper airway cough syndrome (UACS) is a chronic cough featuring odd sensations in the upper airway. 

Some definitions state a tickling cough that’s worse in the mornings and at night. Others report it as a sensation of something stuck in the throat or the presence of mucus in the throat. Regardless, a peculiar sensation in the throat is pivotal to the diagnosis.

A complete definition of UACS is chronic upper respiratory tract irritation and hypersensitive cough receptors. Symptoms include:

  • Persistent cough 
  • Abnormal or unpleasant sensations in the throat
  • Frequent throat clearing
  • Postnasal drip
  • Cobblestone mucosa

Here’s what you should know about upper airway cough syndrome.

GERD Cough

Young man having asthma | What Types Of Cough Are There? | Gerd Cough

GERD stands for gastroesophageal reflux disease. It happens when part of your stomach acid comes up your throat, or esophagus, to be exact. This condition can happen occasionally or persistently, depending on the severity of the disease. The acid in the esophagus can lead to heartburn and other symptoms, as well as possible tissue damage. 

Even though it’s normal to have acid reflux from time to time, GERD is diagnosed if it occurs frequently. Acid reflux often happens due to lying down after eating, overeating, or eating certain foods. 

There are many causes for GERD, but most of them are related to people’s eating habits. Though in some cases, it is caused due to a bad digestive system. GERD usually occurs in people who are:

  • Pregnant and have increased pressure on their abdomen. 
  • Obese or overweight.
  • Smoker, or second-hand smoker. 
  • Taking particular medications such as sedatives, antidepressants, and asthma medication. 

There are various symptoms of GERD, but the most common one is heartburn. Heartburn is usually described as the discomfort or burning sensation in your chest. It tends to worsen when you bend over, lie down, or after eating food. 

However, not everyone with GERD experience heartburn; there are also other symptoms such as: 

  • Bad breath 
  • Decay
  • Vomiting or nausea
  • Respiratory problem

Read more on the causes, symptoms and how to get rid of GERD cough here.

RELATED: Chronic Cough Symptoms & Treatment | Why Am I Coughing?

Post-Nasal Drip Cough

Postnasal drip means the sinuses make excess mucus that runs down the back of your throat, and it can cause a chronic cough known as upper airway cough syndrome (UACS). While it’s usually not dangerous, it can be an annoyance.

The body responds to allergens by producing mucus to flush it out. As a result, it causes bothersome symptoms such as a runny nose and itchy throat. Some examples of common allergens and irritants are:

  • Dust mites
  • Pet dander
  • Pollen
  • Perfume
  • Cleaning products
  • Mold

Find out 5 ways to manage post nasal drip cough here.

Chronic Cough

Everyone coughs occasionally, but a chronic cough is one of the types of cough that tends to cause worry.

A chronic cough lingers. It lasts more than eight weeks in adults and four weeks in children. And, sometimes, it can last months or even years. 

Chemical irritation from smoking is one of the leading causes of a chronic cough. And it can be a sign of a severe underlying condition such as pneumonia, emphysema, or cancer. Luckily, persistent coughs for non-smokers are usually less worrying. 

Here are some of the most common causes:

Other less common conditions include:

  • Whooping cough
  • Lung cancer
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Damage or inflamed airways ( bronchiectasis or bronchiolitis)
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Chronic scarring of the lungs
  • Food particles or foreign bodies (aspiration)
  • Heart disease
  • Psychological disorders

Read more on what causes a chronic cough? (and how to kick it) here.

How to Help Diagnose Different Types of Cough

Whichever of the types of cough yours corresponds to, tracking your cough enables you to identify patterns or triggers, helping you manage your condition better. 

Additionally, you can monitor whether your cough is getting better or worse. In other words, you won’t worry unnecessarily, and you can take action sooner. That’s where Hyfe App can help.

Hyfe utilizes the microphone on your smartphone to automatically track your cough. It maps data points, making it easy to see trends. You can also easily share the data with your doctor. 

Hyfe uses artificial intelligence to identify coughs. It counts every cough and allows you to compare and track your coughing over time. This gives you objective insights into your coughing and can help you monitor your health in the context of pollution, asthma, or even Covid19. Stay on top of your health by tracking your cough.  

Have you tried health tracking apps? What was your experience? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!

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  1. I’ve used the Hyfe application on my iPhone for weeks now. However it stops recording for no apparent reason. At night my iPhone microphone is only 1 – 2 feet away from my head, yet last night nothing. Daytime my iPhone rests next to me on chair or table, yet it recorded nothing between 11 & 5. When I’m out & about my iPhone is in my back pocket, microphone up.
    Is there some setting I’m missing to keep the application open & recording?

    • Hi Jim,

      In the Hyfe app, please go to your Profile (bottom left icon) and then select “Send Feedback”. This will prefill an email with some information that allows us to debug your account. Press send, and we’ll dig into what could be causing this problem.

      Best regards,

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